Category Music

Bobby McFerrin May Be the Richest Man in the World

I have no idea about Bobby McFerrin’s net worth. A quickie Google search tosses out an estimate of $4 million as of 2019. That means he probably won’t have to be busking on street corners to feed himself in his old age, but if even close to accurate, it is certainly no great shakes in the firmament of the uber rich, even within his own rarefied world of popular singers and entertainers. (Bruce Springsteen: $500 million, Jay-Z: $1.4 billion, Tom Hanks: $400 million).

But capital comes in many forms, and to survey McFerrin’s life and body of work is to behold wealth of such staggering proportions as to make a lie of any list proclaiming “The World’s Richest People” that does not include his name.

There we were, bouncing around the kitchen, caught up in McFerrin’s  infectiously playful spirit that is unafraid to bend music to his utterly unique sensibilities of vocal play.

Freed from material want and able t...

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Six Magical Sundays: Ahmir Questlove Thompson’s “Summer of Soul”

Pretty much from its first moment to last, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s “Summer of Soul,” a film chronicling six magical Sundays of stirring soul music holding forth as the “Harlem Cultural Festival” at Mount Morris (now Marcus Garvey) Park in 1969, shows why it’s been a summer-long rage since its July debut streaming on Hulu and in theaters nationwide.

Thompson distilled some 40 hours of meticulously crafted footage shot by a four-camera crew led by the late Hal Tulchin into a 117-minute documentary that includes a laundry list of the greatest soul and gospel acts of the era. It all kicks off with 19-year-old Stevie Wonder playing drums and singing under a light rain in the film’s opening minutes as crew members follow him around the stage with an umbrella. (Did you know Stevie Wonder played drums? I didn’t…)

Things never stop moving from there as the Chambers Brothers, Sly & the Fami...

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Brilliant Songs #24: Henryk Górecki’s “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs”

As our 20-year nation-building project draws to a catastrophic close in Afghanistan, what do we have to show for it? It’s a painful question made all the more so by the lives of U.S. soldiers and civilians freshly lost in the terrible bombings on Thursday, not to mention the far greater number of Afghans who have paid, and will continue to do so long after our exit, with their lives and freedom for the brief window of semi-democracy both nations worked with such tenacity and treasure to provide for that beleaguered land.

All of it turning now, with near dizzying speed, to ash.

Questions, doubts and recriminations about both our long-running presence and chaotic exit from Afghanistan dominate our national conversation today, at least temporarily pushing the re-emerging horrors of the Covid pandemic out of the spotlight.

The entire symphony is a treasure, a voyage through sorrow and lyricism whose beauty par...

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Brilliant Songs #23: Fields & Kern’s “I Won’t Dance”

Almost all music makes us want to move at least a little bit, and some inspires a nearly universal impulse to get up and shake every last cell of The Body Electric, as Walt Whitman “sang” about in the long ago. But when consummate pros like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers are on hand, we are all better to take a seat and settle for tapping our toes and breaking into broad grins as their dazzling skills are brought to bear.

And that is exactly the case with our newest “Brilliant Song” in this series, the now 86-year-old classic, “I Won’t Dance.”

The song became an enduring hit in the 1935 film, “Roberta,” starring the aforementioned duo of Astaire and Rogers along with the under-appreciated singer and (mostly) comic actress Irene Dunne and leading man hunk, Randolph Scott. It had been a Broadway musical of the same name two years earlier

“I Won’t Dance” has a slightly complicated history, though, having bee...

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Ninth Annual Songs of Summer

After last year’s annual edition of this summatime summatime summatime ritual, it was brought to my attention by astute readers that the previous eight years’ worth of selections had yet to include a single song by either Jimmy Buffett or the Beach Boys, who, if they didn’t first propagate the idea of summer and its languid pleasures, at least had a major hand in refining them for the modern age.

Shocked, I vowed to set things aright in 2021, both to give honor where honor is due, and pleasure where pleasure is desired.

So on this first day of summer, the summer after the summer that kind of wasn’t because nothing quite was during Pandemipalooza 2020, we are going to hear from both Mr. Buffett and Messrs. Wilson, Love, et al, along with the first repeat appearance in this series. That honor goes to Martha Reeves and her Vandellas, who will unfortunately not be “Dancin’ in the Streets” as they did in the...

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